YMCA’s Be Real Campaign finds that almost two-thirds of young people feel pressure to look their best online

Almost two-thirds of young people (61%) feel pressure to look their best online, according to new findings from the Be Real Campaign. The alarming research also revealed that more than two-thirds (67%) regularly worry about the way they look.

In response to this pressure, our research found that more than two-thirds of young people (67%) edit photos of themselves before posting them on social media and nearly a quarter (23%) spent more than five minutes doing so, with some taking over an hour. These edits would typically include removing blemishes (11%), smoothing their skin (10%), and whitening their teeth (7%).

Less than a fifth of young people (16%) said that looking at social media positively affected how confident they felt about the way they look. When asked what could be done to change this more than two-fifths of young people (43%) said that people should unfollow accounts that promote negative messages about the way people look to promote body confidence on their social media channels.

Celebrities and social media influencers also have a role to play. More than half of young people (53%) said that celebrities and influencers sharing more realistic images of themselves would encourage people to post content that more accurately reflect what they look like in real life.

We spoke to more than 2,000 young people aged 11 to 24 years old as part of the research report ‘The Curate Escape’.

YMCA’s Be Real Campaign is calling on the nation to fight against unrealistic beauty standards and sign the Body Image Pledge. The Pledge seeks to reflect reality and diversity, promotes health and well-being and champions positive body image.

By signing the Pledge, individuals are making a commitment to limit or stop editing their pictures for social media, hold brands and organisations accountable if they lack diversity or promote unhealthy body image, celebrate their body’s achievements rather than their looks and spread the word about the Pledge to encourage more people to support the movement.

In order to cultivate a more positive social media experience, YMCA’s Be Real Campaign has pulled together a list of #BeRealApproved influencers. By following these accounts young people can be assured that their timelines will be a source of inspiration rather than irritation.

Denise Hatton, Chief Executive for YMCA England & Wales, said:

 “Social media continues to present a multitude of dangers for young people which they have been left to navigate on their own devices. These dangers are not just limited to the content they see, but also the pressure young people face to emulate them.

“Young people and the general population need to be conscious about the content they are posting online. In order to support this we’re calling on people across the nation to sign our Body Image Pledge and to be confident of how they look.

“While our research has shown that young people feel compelled to alter their digital selves, they are still in control of the content on their screens. As such, YMCA’s Be Real Campaign is encouraging young people to curate their own safe spaces online and follow accounts that make them feel good about themselves.”

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